Washoe County Assessor Mike Clark this week issued a statement through a private public relations company saying his office has devalued more than 3,000 properties in Lemmon Valley after residents complained about the stench coming from Swan Lake.
“When I heard their stories, it was disturbing,” Clark said of the residents living in the area.
The lake flooded in 2017 causing homes to be destroyed and inhabitable. Earlier this year the lake receded and “naturally occurring” processes are causing the odors, according to county officials, as water had evaporated.
Clark, however, said the sewage discharge into Swan Lake is at least part of the cause for the smell.
“The many folks that lived there for a number of years, they’ve never experienced this before. Everyone seemed to blame the water treatment plants,” Clark said. “They felt that the sewer treatment plant was part of the problem. They didn’t feel it was just rotting vegetation.”
The property devaluations of 10% can be removed if the lake’s condition improves.
Clark said the same criteria for the property valuations used in Lemmon Valley also applies to noise and properties near the airport, or other areas that may be impacted by noxious odors
“We had a realtor who lived in that area to stand up and say she refuses to sell property or even show property in that area, because she’s afraid if the smell comes back or [is] stronger people might blame the realtor for not disclosing that,” Clark added.
He said the property devaluations actually could have been greater than the 10%.
Clark comes in swinging as new commissioner
Clark is also the newly elected county commissioner who will soon be sworn in to start his term in 2023. He’s already hurling allegations against the county, of which he has alleged corruption and mismanagement to the point that it got him restricted from visiting his own office as assessor.
A judge last year found Clark’s mailing of anonymously authored documents alleging corruption and mismanagement to be “altogether creepy and disturbing” and granted a year-long temporary protective order against Clark.
The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, along with the U.S. postal inspector, investigated the matter and found, to the dismay of the county manager and others in his office, that it was Clark, caught on security cameras, mailing the packets.
The judge, after county officials investigated the mailings, determined Clark violated the county’s harassment policies.
Clark, in turn, sued Assistant County Manager Kate Thomas for alleged defamation. He lost that case after Thomas’ attorney filed an anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) motion. Clark failed to respond, blamed his attorney and had to cut Thomas and her attorney a check for more than $30,000.
Clark is continuing his battle with the county.
He was sent a packet by Washoe County to sign as an incoming commissioner. The documents indicated he was not to share communications from the county manager’s office with the public, something Clark said would violate his rights as an elected official and the Nevada Public Records Act.
“The manager’s office sent it to me as an on-board package to sign and fill out,” he told This Is Reno. “When I saw what it was, I thought it was outrageous. It was taking away constitutional rights. I think they were hoping I would sign it as part of the on boarding.”
Incoming Commissioner Mariluz Garcia signed the documents. Clark, however, said they were full of red flags.
“My first red flag is it said I’m an employee,” he told This Is Reno. “I’m not an employee. My second red flag [is that it] was dated back … August 29 of this year. I wasn’t even elected at that point in time.
“So every single line that they wanted me to sign said ‘employee,’” he added. “I mean … they wanted a copy of my passport. They wanted a copy of my driving record. They wanted to pull a credit report on me. They wanted to do a background check, and then they said I couldn’t talk about anything that I’ve seen around there.”
The county withdrew the packet after Clark refused to sign it and after This Is Reno asked about it.
“In an attempt to streamline and create consistency to the onboarding process for new commissioners, Washoe County sent information packets with HR documents to both newly elected commissioners,” county spokesperson Bethany Drysdale said. “Those packets included confidentiality agreements that some county employees are required to sign.
“However, it was decided that the forms are not pertinent to the office of commissioner, and since only one commissioner filled it out, that form was destroyed and no further action was needed.”